I arrived at the Rainbow cold, quite damp and frankly, ready for a pint. Evidently I was not the only one with this in mind, as Beans met me all smiles with a bottle in his hand, and then led me towards the bar. We were going to get on just fine. We chatted a little at the bar about the venue and then he led me off to a table in the back of the pub to start our interview. I probably should point out at this point that the table that he chose had been titled the ‘Bullshit Corner’ so I cannot guarantee that anything that was said is in any way valid. Sorry guys.
So you’re about halfway through the tour now, aren’t you?
Yeah, it’s weird because we had three days off, and it’s insane how if you break the stride, it feels like day two! We did two weeks, and you know when you get back from holiday, and you go ‘I feel like we never went away!’ like straight away? I kinda did that, I got home, had a couple of days with the bird and then it was like, so, let’s go! There were different supports throughout so it’s just a different kind of energy, with different people around and whatnot, you know?
Are you excited to be back in Birmingham? Do you like the crowd here?
Yeah! I have a bit of a strange, up-and-down sort of history with Birmingham. I used to play for these guys at The Lighthouse, which is like a Wetherspoons type pub, and they were always pretty quiet shows. But good fun. And the last time we were here we were at The Yardbird, which felt like an episode of Friends…
Who have been the best audience you have played to so far on this tour?
It’s not really the crowd’s job to be good or represent the town or anything. We’ve been to some really interesting places, I mean, Hull stands out. It always feels like it gets so much jep, but there’s an old fruit market which was derelict and now people have moved in and there’s a venue and a recording studio, and it’s just really vibin’. You can kinda see that it’s probably not the wealthiest city in the world and whatnot, but it just feels like some really creative minds have just taken what would be a really derelict area and looked after it really well and created a venue. You can tell when things are done from the heart rather than from your fucking wallet.
Do you find that that is the difference between playing big cities and small towns?
I think if you go off the beaten track, people appreciate you doing it a bit more and therefore, you know, they’re more excited to be there. We went to Hebden Bridge, which is outside of Manchester, and there’s thousands of towns that size but it just seems to be quite a creative town really, they’ve really sort of hammered bringing touring bands in, putting a small town on the map. And it’s beautiful, like, it’s pretty if you like witches…
Yeah… It just looked like there was magic in the hills… I was up asking about witches and we went to Pendle Hill, which is famous for its witches.
But you didn’t encounter any?
Well you never know! I’ve encountered a couple at Hebden Bridge… But I don’t know if I should say anything…
Do you miss home when you go on a long tour or are you more at home on the road?
I mean, you know, I miss my girlfriend…
You have to say that…
But she’s a trooper though, I mean, she’ll come out to see me play. When I tour I always seem to be in Birmingham on the weekends, so she’ll be like I’ll come and see you on Friday, where will you be and at least three times it’s been Birmingham. She’s like ‘Really? Cant you switch it?’ and I’m like it doesn’t really work like that… But you know no, it’s part of it. It’s only a couple of weeks, it flies by and it’s something I’ve always done, I enjoy it. It also makes you appreciate stuff as well. Only recently have I moved in to a flat that you could call home, before I’ve always lived above pubs and whatnot and I could go away on tour and come back and the worst shower that I’d seen in three weeks would be the one in my house!
You played Wembley last year supporting Frank Turner. Has that changed things for you, as it was such a big show?
Yeah it was huge, I mean it was loads of fun, but it didn’t really change anything. It certainly it was amazing, I suppose you can kinda feel the effects… I think for a year I couldn’t play a gig without someone saying I saw you at Wembley. Even as far afield as Italy! People seem to respect it if you play to that many people.
As well as Wembley you toured the states with Frank in June, did your songs translate to an American audience?
To be honest, they love Frank so much in the States, so I had my foot in the door by being his mate already and I’ve worn those shoes a lot. The only thing that didn’t translate was the name, the songs and the banter did. I went with it in mind, I was opening every night with a song about Prince Harry, you know, I thought fuck it, if I’m going to be English, be really English! But strangely, people got the tunes and it was a phenomenal tour, it was eye opening for me.
Have you played any festivals in the US? How do they differ from UK festivals?
Festival culture is almost quite new in the States. I went to Bonnaroo in Tennessee, which is one of their biggest festivals. They’re kinda pinning for it to be their Glasto. I just pictured it being really corny, I just imagined Americans not being able to do a festival! I think I YouTube’d it and it was like “We’re gonna have a WACKY weekend!” and it was like… Oh my God. What I found was the complete opposite. It felt like a really fresh, new thing. You get this at every festival, but without pushing it down your throat, they had this promotion of random acts of kindness, and human interaction. It was like, fuck it, it’s Bonnaroo. Trying to blag a cigarette, fuck it, it’s Bonnaroo. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen at UK festivals, that was what drew me to them in the first place, that kind of everyone’s everyone is everyone’s mate element just for the weekend, everyone sharing everyone’s stuff. That was in abundance out there.
What’s the next big thing for you?
Well, the next album’s out 1st December, so that’ll be five albums in five years… I release them on my birthday, always have. It’s good having the thought “you gotta do it in a year”, it makes the circle quite clear for me. So this tour finishes, the album comes out, big album launch party, and a small sort of whistle stop tour. And then next year! It just goes in circles; it’s exactly the same. I’ll then probably go on holiday with the bird in January! I’ll try to get back to the states January or February, tour again in March, then the festival season… Bring out an album, repeat!